Scott Morrison keeps telling us that he stopped the boats. As I have said many times that is just not true. It is fake news. But the lie has been so uncontested by the media for so long it is hard to nail the lie.Perhaps being careless in the first place the media now finds it hard to admit error
Our public life whether it be about refugees or climate change has been so debased it is becoming hard to sort fact from fiction .
The late US Senator Daniel Moynihan famously said that ‘everyone is entitled to their own opinions but no one is entitled to their own facts’. Scott Morrison has been inventing his own facts on many things including ‘stopping the boats’
This promotion of false news has dangerous consequences well beyond refugees and boats. Our democracy cannot survive unless we are able to discern the truth and trust what other people say. Donald Trump with the help of Fox News has so debauched public discourse that US democracy may not survive if he wins a second term.
We face similar risks if false and fake news is not repudiated.
But to return to the way Scott Morrison repeatedly peddles fake news and untruths on ‘stopping the boats’
Peter Hughes and I posted two blogs in September 2015 (‘Slogans versus facts on boat arrivals’ Part 1 and Part 2) that pointed out first, that Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison kept the door open for tens of thousands of people arriving by boat by opposing legislation that would have enabled implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement of September 2011. That arrangement was negotiated with Malaysia to curb boat arrivals in Australia. Secondly, we pointed out that Tony Abbott’s and Scott Morrison’s role in ‘stopping the boats’ was at the margins and vastly overrated. By the time Operation Sovereign Borders came into effect the surge of boat arrivals was over.
Since then, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton have continued their spin about how they stopped the boats. They didn’t. Unfortunately, our mainstream media were duped in the first place by uncritically accepting the Coalition’s line in the confused period of the changeover of government and in the drama and secrecy surrounding a small number of turn backs.
Our main conclusion in those two posts was that:
By the time OSB geared up for its first boat turn backs on 19 December 2013, the number of boat arrivals was down from 48 in July 2013 to only seven in December 2013. OSB applied only to the tail end of the boat drama. The ‘game-changer’ was Kevin Rudd’s announcement in July 2013 that people arriving by boat after that time would not be settled in Australia.
Arguably boat turn backs would not have been successful at all without the July 2013 decision. For example, the Navy and Customs were able to turn back three boats in December 2013 after the introduction of OSB. It’s hard to believe that it would have been physically possible to turn back 48 boats if they had continued at the monthly rate that occurred in July 2013 and that Indonesia would have quietly acquiesced.
In short, Tony Abbot and Scott Morrison in Opposition gave the green light to people smugglers by opposing the implementation of the Malaysia Arrangement in September 2011. In Government, Operation Sovereign Borders, had only a marginal effect on boat arrivals. By the time OSB came into effect, the number of boat arrivals had been dramatically reduced.
Scott Morrison did not stop the boats but he believes that like a used car salesman, people will believe him if he continually peddles fake news.